Is it fair to capture a couple's PDA on mobile camera?

Dubai - The curious case of shoot at sight

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By Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 30 Jun 2022, 5:15 PM

I recently came across a truly bizarre story in the Indian media. A man and his wife were in a “holy city” (in the northern reaches of the country), and, while taking a dip in the river as part of a ritual, the man kissed his wife. I’m not sure if it was a French kiss; it probably wasn’t, it was probably a peck on the cheek. Whatever it was, it was construed as being PDA — public display of affection — in a religious place, and the man was yanked out of the river and beaten up, while the wife protested ineffectually.

Now, I don’t want to get into a debate on religious logistics and whether or not being affectionate towards one’s spouse in a sacred place is just cause for sending ‘offended parties’ up in holy smoke.

What intrigued me was how quickly a video of the entire incident went viral on social media. While all this drama — the morality play — was unfolding, there was someone filming it. I mean, how do you grab a phone and start shooting while you are waist-deep in water? Okay, maybe you are not in the water, you are on the shore, but it’s a sacred shore, and yet you are agnostic — and not immersive — enough to pull out a phone to begin filming the first sign of a flutter.

Away from the sacred river and its embankment, I’m utterly and devoutly against all forms of video-taking on auto-prompt. Why is every sliver of life up for a film shoot? More disturbingly, there have been cases when human intervention may have actually saved lives or reduced damage; nobody bothers to intervene constructively, but have the time and inclination to film events for posterity.

For me, taking a ‘personal’ video (aka, a non-work-related video) — unless there is a compelling reason to — is properly off-limits, too much of an invasion of privacy. What constitutes a compelling reason? A wedding, or a birthday party — or any party where everyone is in the know that they are being filmed, and they have geared up for the occasion.

The reason why I find smartphones scariest is not because Siri is having a listen-in or that Google location settings have your personal trails mapped out — yes, they are scary attributes alright, but not the scariest. There’s a human hand involved when it comes to “scariest”: someone being ready, on reflex, to film you.

There’s also the other annoying matter when people try to do a video call at the most unexpected time. You are having a bad hair day or have just been swamped by a whirlwind of work chaos and look like something the cat just dragged in… or, it’s that time of the day when you are utterly exhausted and are in no mood to put up a smiling visage (if it’s just a voice call, you can afford to look gloomy/sulky without the person at the other end having a clue — as long as you are sounding peppy).

Once, I was ranting about something — I forget what — and I didn’t realise the person I thought was my sounding board was filming me (I had assumed she was sitting with phone in hand, which is stock in trade, and looking out for work emails or urgent WhatsApp messages). “God, what a drama queen you are,” she remarked smugly after I was done with my 10-minute tirade, accompanied by wild gesticulations. “I have it all recorded.”

“What do you mean?” I gasped.

“I took a video,” she exclaimed triumphantly. “Now can I put it out on our friends’ group?”

She didn’t; she even claimed she’s deleted it, but I’m sure she’s retrieved it from her trash, and is now armed with a blackmail weapon.

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